THE SHOW "American Horror Story: Asylum"
WHEN|WHERE Wednesday night at 10 on FX
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) is a sociopath in a habit -- cruel, vindictive and repressed (that goes without saying) who maintains a collection of whips, canes and other assorted instruments of torture which she administers on her unruly flock. But the flock at Briarcliff asylum for the criminally insane, which she runs, is about to grow even more unruly: Kit Walker (Evan Peters) has been admitted for a medical evaluation to determine whether he can stand trial for the murder of several women, his wife included; and Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson), a reporter looking for a scoop, is committed by Sister Jude, fearful she may know too much. Briarcliff has its own resident sadist M.D., Arthur Arden (James Cromwell), assisted by simpleminded Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe), who wonders about the ravenous creatures he has apparently cobbled together from ... what? (Or from whom?)
MY SAY If any of the above scared you, then my sincere apologies. I've obviously overstated the case for "Asylum." There's nothing particularly scary about this messy, overstuffed cartoon -- successor to 2011's first (and superior) season of "American Horror Story." There is something offensive about it to Catholics and nuns: Especially nuns because, if anything, "Asylum" qualifies as an addition to the nunsploitation genre that includes other recent titles like "Nun of That" and 2010's "Nude Nuns With Big Guns." Plus, you'd be right to expect a story from a series called "American Horror Story" except that creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have cobbled together far too many here. "Asylum," which toggles between present day and 1964, is bloated with elements from half a dozen horror genres, including splatter films, alien abductions, pulp, sci-fi and so-called "body horror," which concerns itself with mutations. The boys are obviously having fun with their toys -- who wouldn't! But they don't seem to have any clear idea what to do with them.
BOTTOM LINE Terrific title sequence, but it's what comes after that's the problem. "Asylum" has some good special effects, just not much of a story to hang them on.